Satirical writing: humor and intellect ‘not mutually exclusive’

A line in the sand is often drawn between what’s funny and what’s intellectual. This line, in many respects, makes sense. Textbooks are boring, and the Sunday comics are funny. Which one is ultimately more important?

In order to understand the relationship between humor and intellect, one has to understand that the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they tend to work together, and humor plays an important role in making intellectual sense of the world.

For example, think back to lessons learned from childhood television programs. The Count on Sesame Street was funny with his Dracula shtick, but he also taught important intellectual lessons about numbers. Kids laugh at the silliness, but they also learn that “ze number of ze day is tventy-vone. Ah, ah, ah.”

Among the most important aspects of the ties between what’s funny and what’s smart is satire. (The most important aspect probably being one’s ability to count to ten with a Transylvanian accent.)

Satire can be defined as using humor to express criticism, but when it comes to news, satire can help provide an alternate view for looking at current events.

A New York Times article on a Supreme Court decision, for example, will provide facts about a particular event, and facts are, of course, important. But once the facts are presented, satire can sometimes help make sense of the implications arising from something like a Court case.

An episode of The Daily Show might use satire to address part of a Supreme Court decision to help people see the ruling from a new perspective. Satire, in this instance, adds meaning to the facts presented in the news by providing commentary through humorous criticisms.

Satire plays an important role in news because it lets us take a break from the drama and overall doom-and-gloom to recognize the humor in various situations. It allows us to think both intelligently and humorously about current events, and it sheds new light on existing facts.

As the Mirror staff prepares for the annual Smirror issue (coming out April 4), in which all of the stories are satirical, we encourage the Augustana community to reflect on the importance of finding the humor in serious situations.

We hope to provide a new perspective on the issues facing the college, and, after a semester and a half of giving you the facts, we hope to give you something to laugh about next time you sit down to read the paper.